Pet Peeves of an Author


Louise Lyons posted and tagged any of her writer friends to join in. I’d been considering posting about some of this for a while, so here goes! And go and read Louise’s post first!

As Louise said, time to write is a pet peeve. Although I’m retired and therefore theoretically as free as air, real life will insist on intruding. And somewhere in the back of my brain is a kind of demon that says that unless I’m earning as much as JK Rowling I really don’t have the right to stick to the writing and let real life go hang. I allow myself to get involved with family, friends, voluntary work, and neighbours – all part of the richness of life that then underpins writing, of course, but a writer does need time to get it all down!

I don’t mind the editing part. I have some wonderful beta readers/editors who keep me grounded, organised and thankful for their existence. It’s fascinating, sometimes, to read what you think you wrote and then find out from your editors that no, actually, you missed/inserted/twisted this, that or the other. My main editor could almost be cited as a co-author. If I leave the editing long enough I can treat my work as if it was written by someone else and am often surprised by the contents although with my detective stories I don’t usually forget who ‘dunnit’. However, a minor peeve is that minor characters will insist on getting into the wrong place at the wrong time and have to be very firmly dealt with to get everything back on track.

I do have a pet peeve concerning the typo gremlins that live in my computer or in cyberspace and invade while my back is turned/a paragraph is edited/the work flies to and fro between me and my editors. We catch most of them – the typos, not the gremlins – but I would love to banish them completely! Their favourite ways to trick/upset me are to leave extra spaces between words, miss out punctuation marks that I know I inserted, and mess about with hyphens.

My major hate/peeve is formatting. Self publishing has a number of things going for it but formatting isn’t one of them, and no, I have no intention of paying someone else to do that part for me. Well, unless I get to the JKR stage, I suppose, but that’s not likely. And even then, I’d want to control the process so I’d need to check everything myself. The Smashwords Style Guide is a haven of common sense and clear explanations. But what works for Smashwords doesn’t work for Amazon and I have recently been tearing my hair out over their rules.

A final peeve is pricing. I simply can’t work out what to charge for novels or novellas. Everything I try seems to end up with the wrong marketing position – too expensive (so browsers pass by), too cheap (so people think it’s probably not worth reading) or too free, at which point there are lots of downloads which never translate into purchases. I know as a reader that I avoid expensive e-books. Print paperbacks should be dearer than e-books. After all, e-books don’t come with all the in-between stuff like printing, storage, shipping, shelving, etc. And yes, editing comes with a cost for books published by mainstream publishers, but not for writers like myself who are self-published. Or at least, not at such a high cost. And yet do we need to factor it in? I’ve read a lot of blogs and articles on this subject but am no nearer any decisions.

So – five things that exercise my brain at the expense of writing time!! Pet peeves indeed!

I’d love some of my writer friends to join us – consider yourselves tagged!

Last Christmas


Last Christmas…

I remember it as clearly as yesterday, and you’re lying when you say it all passed in an alcoholic blur because of your new job and celebrating and so on. We were living together so it would have been a bit hard to fool me that much. Most of the time you were sober and a bit morose about having to move, to leave, even though you were pleased with the new status and even more with the new pay package.

I gave you my heart…

…right after the office party, on the way to the station. You were grumbling about having to pretend we weren’t together and I suggested we should stop pretending, let the world know, get married (it’s legal now, after all) and let the office busybodies have their nine days’ wonder, shock and salacious gossip. I said I would come to London with you, find a job somewhere, somehow, so that we could be together. We stopped under one of those huge streetlights on the station approach and you kissed me right there in public. Well, OK, there weren’t many public around and the ones there were were wrapped up in their own thoughts and destinations. But you kissed me without looking over your shoulder and I remember the sleet glistening on your hair under the light, the fiery coldness of your lips and the way my heart sang. Then you held my hand till we had to leave loose and run helter-skelter for the last train, laughing.

Neither of us had had that much to drink. We never did at those office things, too scared, I suppose, of giving ourselves away. So instead I gave my heart away and when we got home we fucked, or rather made love, till almost dawn.

The very next day …

It was Christmas Eve and we went into the village to buy a tree. We thought they might be cheaper, with less than twenty-four hours to go. We found a really nice little tree outside the supermarket, with a huge ‘reduced’ sign on it and we were just going to go in when Anna, that new girl from the typing pool, came past. We hadn’t known she lived in the same suburban village as us; she’d left the party early and of course we normally travelled in by car so we wouldn’t have run across her. She looked surprised then asked if we were together, with one of those smirking, knowing looks that some people seem to find appropriate. I was just saying yes, proud and dizzily happy when you said no, we were just flatmates. I felt the bottom drop out of my world.

We didn’t even decorate the tree and it just stood there all dark and bare till I threw it out on New Year’s Eve, tired of the needles dropping on the carpet, dry and spiked like my thoughts.

You left on the Sunday night and you tossed me your keys without a care in the world.

This year…

I was surprised to see you, pleased for you to hear about the promotion and the return up north, but not impressed that you seemed to think I’d just have been waiting all year, like some kind of doll you can throw into a box and take out again when it suits you. You were never that great a ‘catch’ despite the inflated salary. I could always have found someone else but we were good together or at least I thought we were. You didn’t. obviously.

… someone special.

He’s already asked me privately and he’s arranged this romantic public proposal under the mistletoe at his mum’s house. They know, too, so there won’t be any outcry, just lots of people pleased for us. He’s really dependable, and not bad-looking. I’m going to be happy.

But sometimes, very privately, I just wish it was last Christmas all over again.


(I wrote this a few years ago to a prompt from a writing group. I’ve tweaked it slightly to bring it up to date. It’s a kind of homage – and maybe we all wish it could be last year and 2016 could be re-run with edits?)

Seasonal Greetings!


Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Saturnalia, Yule, New Year or whatever you celebrate. Personally I lean towards Saturnalia but go along with whatever my nearest and dearest want to do – which all includes family birthdays which seem to have clustered round December.

Somehow, I disappeared again. My main resolution for 2017 is to be better at updating my various social media posts. You are encouraged to nudge me if I fail – which is highly probable. But in January, at least, I intend to post!

Have a wonderful holiday season!